Civil Air Patrol

Fifth graders take to air and learn about aviation careers

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa - The days activities started with a briefing to 27 fifth-graders by Capt. Kurt Lichtenwald, Helen Keller Elementary school psychologist and CAP cadet orientation pilot.

Green Bay, Wis – Excitement and anticipation filled the air Friday, May 4, when 27 fifth-grade students from Helen Keller Elementary School in Green Bay and one student from Kiel Middle School, Kiel, Wis., converged on the Austin Straubel International Airport located in Green Bay, for a day of learning about the many careers associated with aviation.

The event was the culmination of a yearlong educational program in which Mrs. Sheila Reynolds’ fifth-graders had the opportunity to learn firsthand about careers such as authors and chefs.  This event, which was possible through the help of Civil Air Patrol, was used by Kurt Lichtenwald, school psychologist at Helen Keller Elementary as a reward for a job well done during the school year.  Lichtenwald is also a captain in CAP at the Brown County Senior Squadron in Green Bay.

Representatives from the FAA and TSA met with the students to discuss their career field.  Tours of the airport’s tower, radar room and the security checkpoint kept the students attention.  The students listened intently and asked many questions of their hosts.  The airport’s manager had previously spoken to the students at their school.

After the tour the students, along with ten Civil Air Patrol cadets from Fox Cities Composite Squadron in Appleton and Stevens Point Composite Squadron, were able to tour the KC-135 jet from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee, Wis. and a C-130 from the 182nd Air National Guard in Peoria, Illinois.  All of the students enjoyed touring the planes and sitting in the cockpits of the massive planes. What for many was the opportunity of a lifetime, the students took time to ask the crews some pointed questions regarding their careers.

The icing on the cake occurred when the students and CAP cadets were able to participate in Young Eagles Flights in CAP aircraft.  This event was possible due to a special grant they received through the aerospace education program in CAP to pay for the fuel.

For many, it was their first flight in a plane.  The recurring expression used to describe their feeling after returning from their flight was “Awesome!”

A brainchild of Lichtenwald and Reynolds, the program began six years ago when according to Lichtenwald, “I observed the students did not see the relationship between the curriculum, including daily assignments, and the ultimate goal of educating them for future employment success.”

“We needed students to understand the importance of education for their future.  If we could get them to see that link, then they would increase their motivation to learn and be successful in the future,” concluded Lichtenwald.

How does Lichtenwald’s volunteering in CAP relate to educating the students?  He is pilot in CAP and is cadet orientation pilot rated.  He recently completed his check ride in the Cessna 182 as well.

“I have been blessed to have the opportunity to join the Civil Air Patrol and to participate over the years in all three primary missions: Emergency services (disaster relief), cadet programs (through my son’s involvement) and aerospace education.  I have drawn on my experiences in all three areas as I have worked with the students, talking about those experiences.”

Lichtenwald also stated that “Science, technology, English and math (STEM) are only one part (of the educational process).  Character is another extremely important aspect of this program.”

“We utilize four core values in the career program” he continued, pointing out the correlation between CAP and his school.  “The values are things speakers often bring up as important to their employer without directly identifying them as such.  We use, respect, integrity, service to others before self and excellence in all we do.”

Just as CAP teaches their cadets through their Character Development program, “We hold the students to high standards of academic and behavioral excellence throughout the year.”

This is the third year that Lichtenwald has been able to secure flights for the students.  His son, Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Mitch Lichtenwald has helped at the event by showing the students his emergency services gear.  Making this truly a family event, 2nd Lieutenant Connie Lichtenwald prepares the lunch for the students.  She currently teaches at Kiel Middle School, Kiel, Wis.

Helen Keller Elementary School currently has one teacher using Civil Air Patrol’s aerospace education materials.  A new Aerospace Education Member (AEM) who is involved in the after school program is excited to start implementing the materials into that program as well.  The middle school also has an AEM, bringing the excitement of learning aerospace education to the students there as well.

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